A Warning Of The End Times
Our lesson today is on the book of Jude. It is one of the smallest books in the Bible, only one chapter long, yet it has a very important message for believers. The author identifies himself as the brother of James, and a servant of Jesus Christ. The two men most likely to be the authors are *Judas, the apostle,(see Luke 6:16: the brother of James, NOT Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus) or *Judas, the brother of the Jesus. (see Matt. 13:55)
Of these two, the brother of Christ seems to be the most probable author. First, he does not claim to be an apostle, (vs. 1) and second, he tells his readers to remember the words of the apostles (vs.17) which had spoken in the past. Neither Jude nor James ever specifically referred to themselves as the brother of the Lord, perhaps being afraid their preachings might then be seen as merely nepotism. Others, however, did not hestitate to name them as brothers of the Lord.
* Language Note: "Jude" is a form of the name, Judah, a common and popular name among the Jews. The book of Matthew, which was written in Greek, used the Greek form of the name, Judas, as does Luke.
It is no coincidence that Jude is just before the last book in the Bible. The last book, Revelation, tells of the end times and the final battle between good and evil. Jude is the book just before Revelation, and gives a very strong warning of what believers need to watch for and guard against before the end times. This warning is of such importance that Jude instructs Christians to "earnestly contend" (i.e.--- strive for diligently, do your utmost to attain; fight for) for the faith.
What in the world was going on that the Christian was going to have to fight for the faith? Well, Jude tells us that certain men had crept into the church. (The church, is of course, the entire body of believers, not merely a building.) The members were not aware that these men were evil and ungodly, and that they were corrupting the church and perverting the Word of God to suit their own ungodly lusts. These false teachers were trying to convince believers that God's saving grace allowed them to do all sorts of immoral things, since their sins would no longer be held against them.
Do you know of any religions today that teach these same false doctrines? Religions where people are being taught that they can do anything they choose, anything that pleases them, and that they will not be held accountable because of God's grace toward them? God's grace is used as an excuse for many to keep on doing the carnal, un-Christlike things they have always done. Is this the truth that is taught by God's Holy Bible? We have to be very careful that we stand on GOD's principles, not those of men who have corrupted God's word.
Like much that is written in the Bible, this book has both an immediate and a future fulfillment. These things were happening right then, during Jude's lifetime, and the immediate purpose was to address that problem. But it is also a fore-shadowing of the future, or the time just before the end, when these things will be happening in even greater degree than during Jude's lifetime. Jude gives very strong warnings about the consequences of disobedience with three examples of divine judgment in verses 5-7:
- (5)The Lord destroyed those who did not believe, i.e.--- Those who did not believe that God would give them the promised land of Caanan. (Num. 14:29-30)
- (6) The angels who rebelled against God's authority are being held in chains for the judgment of Hell on the final judgment day. Hell was not created for human beings; it was created for Satan and his angels, who had rebelled against God for their own selfish desires. (II Peter 2:4)
- (7)Sodom and Gomorrah are also condemned to suffering the vengeance of eternal fire, and are to serve as an example to all. God destroyed these two evil cities with "burning sulfur", a foretaste of the the eternal fire to come. (Gen. 19:24)
These ungodly men infiltrating the early church were perverting God's word to allow immorality, and thus changing the direction of the early church. The ungodly men infiltrating the church today eventually succeed in changing the direction of the Christian's thoughts and actions. We need to constantly be on guard against changes in theological doctrine in our church, and in changes in our own thoughts and lives.
Can you think of any ways in which the church has changed in the last twenty or twenty five years? For example, what about the types of clothing or make-up worn? What about the casual acceptance of divorce, pre-marital relationships, and homosexuality? What about the style of worship --- has it changed? Has the preaching changed? In the past, preachers didn't hesitate to preach a "fire and brimstone" message; today, they have to be very careful not to step on too many toes. Are these changes for the better? Or do they pervert and change God's Holy Word to suit man's own wicked and ungodly ways?
Jude gives three examples of what to guard against in verse 11. He prefaces these examples with the phrase Woe unto them!, a strong warning that judgment is forthcoming. The three things he warns his readers to guard against are:
Don't go the way of Cain; i.e.--- Make sure your heart is right. Cain killed Abel because his heart was not right. God knew that, which is why he did not accept Cain's sacrifice. His sacrifice was just as good as Abel's, but his heart was not righteous. (Gen. 4:3-8)
Don't rush after profit despite God's word, in the manner of Balaam --- Balaam was greedy; he wanted to do whatever it took to get the riches promised to him by Balak if he would curse Israel, despite the fact that God had forbidden him. (see Numbers 22-24)
Don't rise up in rebellion, like Korah. Korah was a decendant of Levi, the priestly tribe, and had a well-respected job with great duties in the service of the Lord, but he wanted more. He rebelled against the leadership of Moses, regardless of the fact that Moses was God's chosen leader. His selfish desires led to deceit, rebellion, and his ultimate destruction. (Num. 16)
Jude is warning of unrighteousness in our hearts, which is the cause of all selfishness, greed, hatred, and open rebellion against God and His laws. Does that sound like anything that is going on in the church today? Like Cain, we follow after our own selfishness and greed. Like Balaam, we refuse to listen to God, and do what we choose regardless of what God says. Like Korah, we rise up in rebellion out of selfish and unholy, self-serving desires and greed. Jude warns about the judgment to come with the words Woe unto them!
Jude wrote in verse 12 that these men feed only themselves. He is pointing out that although they may have risen to prominent positions in the church, they are not righteous. By contrast, Jesus told Peter three times to feed his sheep. (John 21: 15, 17) Ezekiel 34:1-10 tells the fate of false shepherds who take care of themselves at the expense of the flock.
Jude reminds his readers that the apostles had warned that these mockers would appear and would divide the church. He then gives instructions in how to protect against these ungodly influences:
- BUILD UP YOUR FAITH --- Believe in God's Holy Word, no matter what may be expedient or "politically correct". The truths of God's word are being attacked today even worse than in Jude's time. We have to defend the Gospel with our faith in it's truth. We have to prayerfully read and study God's word to build our faith.
- PRAY IN THE HOLY SPIRIT --- We need to be in continual prayer to fight the ungodly influences in our church and in our lives, and our prayers must not be self-centered; they must be in the power of the Holy Spirit. (see Rom. 8:26-27)
- KEEP YOURSELF IN GOD'S LOVE --- Once you have trusted in God's Son for your salvation, don't let anything destroy the fellowship between you and God. Have FAITH in His Word. (see Rom. 8:35-39)
Jude then gives two final instructions to believers:
- Have compassion on some, making a difference in their lives. Be merciful to those who doubt --- Remember we were all doubters at one time; it is our duty as Christians to proclaim God's truths to dispel their doubts.
- Save others with fear; pulling them from the fire. The duty of every Christian is to proclaim the gospel, so that all may be saved, and none should perish in the flames of hellfire.
Satan is smart; he was an angel in heaven, and leader of others. He stills leads his unholy followers today in rebellion against God's authority. He knows all the weakest points of humankind, and that is where he strikes, feeding our selfish and carnal desires. It is not coincidence that this warning is immediately before the final book of the Bible; the influences of Satan on the church will only grow more powerful as we near the final times. Jude warns Christians then and now to earnestly and carefully guard against the influences of Satan and the ungodly men he uses to try to destroy God's church.